It is Fairtrade Fortnight (27 Feb – 12 Mar) at the moment. The Fairtrade Foundation does a great job ensuring that farmers, producers and their respective staff are treated fairly and respectfully. For anyone unfamiliar with their work here is their website: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk
But what of those who don’t have the protection of the Fairtrade umbrella? How do they ensure that they get a fair deal for their workers, families and selves! In an ideal world, trade should always be fair for all parties involved!
Sadly, this is not an ideal world. We live in a world where the rich and powerful capitalise on the weak and needy. A world where justice fails many and greed and corruption are the order of the day. A world where the vast majority of us go blindly about our day, mainly concerned with what directly affects us and our loved ones. Enjoying the thrill of getting bargains and keeping money in our own pockets. Not stopping to think if our action/inaction is causing hardship somewhere else.
Using farming as an example – the big business is obviously with the big supermarkets, who have an inordinate amount of power over the poor farmer, who is often contracted to them and them alone and not able to sell his produce to anyone else. So when the supermarket imposes ridiculous rules and regulations i.e. the veg has to be a certain shade/shape and anything falling outside of these criteria has to be disposed of, what is a farmer to do? I could weep at the mountains of perfectly good food which gets destroyed or used as animal fodder each year, just because it doesn’t look perfect!
Why are supermarkets allowed to play god over farmers and decide what food is and isn’t edible! A genuinely hungry person (and hopefully most regular folk) are not going to refuse an apple that’s deemed the wrong shade of red! Nature is far from uniformal and oblivious to manmade standards! We don’t reject family members because their hair or eye colour is not the same as ours!
It is easy to ignore the role we can inadvertently play in this. We happily eat what’s on our plates, often not giving a thought for how it got there. I’m not implying that folk have to say grace before they eat but I do feel that we should know how that food came to be on our plate. And that if we are getting it at rock bottom prices, then there have been cut backs and suffering along the way. Not only will the farmer have been given an unfair price but if livestock are involved, the welfare and diet of those animals will have been less than ideal. And what if we knew that there has been a huge increase in farmers committing suicide because they can no longer provide for their own families? So next time the price of something seems too good to be true……it probably is!
Closer to home, do we deal fairly with family and friends? Is it fair to expect a discount for a job or product from a family member who is self-employed? Whatever they’re giving us at discount, they could get full price for from a stranger. They have bills, mortgages, loans, school fees, and holidays to pay for, just like us. Their earnings are as important to them as ours to us.
All this devaluing of people and goods whether animal, mineral or vegetable causes us to have less regard for them. If we were to buy two lots of weekly veg: one week paying £20 for it and the following week £40, I guarantee that we probably would throw out any leftover veg at the end of the first week. But at the end of the second week with the more expensive veg, we would be finding ways of using it up, as it would have more value to us (or our pocket).
It’s not just about money, it’s about the value that we put upon things and the regard we have for our fellow mankind. With friends there are other things we can do in return for favours/discounts. We can give gifts of our time, run a few errands, do a spot of baby sitting or pet sitting, or buy small gifts to show our appreciation. We could even go all out and have the person round for a meal or take them out for coffee!
We cannot change the world but we can change ourselves and make our realm of influence in the world a fair one.